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Increasing European Interest in Central Asia

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Central Asia, located in the heart of Eurasia, has become one of the playgrounds where global power struggle takes place with changing world after the end the of Cold War in 1990. Its rich underground resources and geopolitical location have played a decisive role in transforming Central Asia into an important centre. Being adjacent to countries such as Russia, China, and India, being in the Caspian Region and being at the centre of north-south and east-west corridors, the geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomic importance of the region has increased.

As it can be understood, the importance of Central Asia is not only due to its geopolitical features and underground riches. At the same time, competition in Eurasia, geopolitical ruptures and aggressive policies between countries directly affect the region. One of the last examples of this is the turn of the European states to Central Asia after the Russia-Ukraine War. These geopolitical ruptures and increasing tension in the world make the riches of Central Asia more valuable.

Although the process of Europe’s orientation towards Central Asia has visibly gained momentum after the Russo-Ukrainian War, it dates to earlier times. For example, European Union (EU) adopted its first strategy document for Central Asia in 2007.[1] It published its last strategy document in 2019.[2] In these adopted strategy documents, the European Council summarizes its objectives as focusing on promoting resilience, prosperity, and regional cooperation in Central Asia. In this process, reforms, democracy, human rights, rule of law, judicial independence and a free-market economy are among the priorities of the EU.[3]

The strategy document of 2019, it is aimed to create a more integrated Central Asian market by investing in regional cooperation, combatting problems such as environmental degradation and terrorism, and developing cooperation with Central Asian states to establish stability in Afghanistan.

In this context, it is aimed to establish a partnership for resilience and prosperity.[4] In this process, the EU has developed four tools based on its strategy documents to establish relations with Central Asia and create an area of influence. These are financial instruments within the scope of the EU, financial instruments within the framework of the relations established by the member states, bilateral agreements, and political dialogue channels to be established.[5] The first EU-Central Asian Economic Forum was held on the 5th of November 2021. In addition, visits were made at various levels from Europe to Central Asia.

As a result of the deterioration of Europe’s relations with Russia in the Russia-Ukraine War, energy need in Europe has reached the highest level. At this point, European states, which are looking for different alternatives, have turned to Central Asian states with relations they have established both nationally and within the scope of the union. This policy became more visible, especially with the onset of the war. In addition, ensuring stability in the Caucasus, albeit at a certain level, means removing barriers for Europe to reach new alternative resources in the heart of Eurasia.

One of the reasons Europe turned to Central Asia is that reaching China is shorter and less costly at this point. It is important that Middle Corridor stabilizes and allows access to energy resources as well as transportation and transportation. The harmony and stability between the Central Asian states strengthen the perception that the region in question is a safe investment area. On the other hand, reforms carried out by the countries of the region and liberalization steps in the economic framework are among the main factors that attract the EU.

In the post-Russian-Ukrainian War period, important visits were made from Europe to Central Asia. The most striking of these is the visit of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. Michel, who visited Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan between 26-28 October 2022, attended the first summit with leaders and representatives of Central Asian states. Various decisions were taken between parties, both bilaterally and within the scope of Europe-Central Asia. For example, it was agreed to further deepen relations between the EU and Uzbekistan. On the other hand, leaders issued a statement confirming that they will work together on peace, security, democracy, rule of law and sustainable development by international law.[6]

Another important visit was made by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell. Borrell has announced that he will discuss transportation connectivity, energy connectivity and digital connectivity at the summit.[7] Because, looking at the details, it is seen that relations between the EU and Central Asia have deepened and expanded. It gains an age-appropriate feature by including issues such as relationships that have become multidimensional and digital connections.

Finally, various visits are made within the framework of bilateral relations. For example, between 30 October and 2 November 2022, Foreign Minister of Germany Annalena Baerbock visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Baerbock said that relations between countries should be established within a framework of equality and focused on the underground resources of Kazakhstan and various advantages of countries, especially the demographic characteristics of Uzbekistan.[8] Because Germany is one of the largest economies and industrial centres in Europe.

However, it is externally dependent on energy. For this reason, it is one of the states most negatively affected by the conflict with Russia. Therefore, Central Asia gains critical importance in eyes of states such as Germany.

As a result, the value and importance of Central Asia in eyes of Europe are increasing for various reasons. This situation brings with it a direct intensifying interest. During a conflict with Russia, the EU shows this interest at various levels and issues with the policies it has adopted. Central Asian states also see Europe as an important actor within their versatile foreign policy scope. Especially the economic resources of Europe, the level of development in technology and industry, the environment of peace and stability that it has maintained for a long time, and the continuous structural integration process offer important opportunities and a road map for Central Asia. In this context, the fact that Central Asia and the EU are open to reconciliation and cooperation rather than competition shows that relations will not be shaped in a zero-sum scope.


[1] “The EU and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership”, Council of the European Union, 10113(7), 2007, http://aei.pitt.edu/38858/1/st10113.en07.pdf, (Date of Accession: 25.11.2022).

[2] “EU Builds a Strong and Modern Partnership with Central Asia”, European Union External Action, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/sites/default/files/factsheet_centralasia_2019.pdf, (Date of Accession: 25.11.2022).

[3] “Central Asia: Council Adopts a New EU Strategy for the Region”, EU Debates, News&Opinions, https://www.pubaffairsbruxelles.eu/eu-institution-news/central-asia-council-adopts-a-new-eu-strategy-for-the-region/, (Date of Accession: 25.11.2022).

[4] “EU Builds a Strong…”, op. cit.

[5] Katrin Böttger-Julian Plottka, “A New Start for the EU Central Asia Policy in 2021? Current State, Developments and Perspectives for the Revision of the EU Central Asia Strategy”, L’Europe en Formation, 385/1, 2018, s. 50,

[6] “President Michel visits Central Asia”, European Council, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/european-council/president/news/2022/10/28/20221028-pec-visits-central-asia/, (Date of Accession: 25.11.2022).

[7] Doğacan Başaran, “AB-Orta Asya Bağlantı Konferansı: Küresel Ağ Geçidi”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/ab-orta-asya-baglanti-konferansi-kuresel-ag-gecidi/, (Date of Accession: 25.11.2022).

[8] Göktuğ Çalışkan, “Baerbock’un Orta Asya Ziyaretlerinde Enerji Faktörü ve Kazakistan”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/baerbockun-orta-asya-ziyaretlerinde-enerji-faktoru-ve-kazakistan/, (Date of Accession: 25.11.2022).

Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.